Child Welfare Restorative Justice Practices

Child Welfare Restorative Justice Practices

Child welfare restorative justice practices are court-referred or child welfare-referred restorative justice processes that can be used to achieve permanency for children, improve timeliness, engagement of families in decision-making, and strengthened family systems throughout the child welfare or juvenile case. Nebraska’s county and juvenile courts and Health and Human Services’ Department actively refers these cases to the ODR-approved centers, as reported in this 2003-2017 Summary.

  • Voluntary referrals for families in need
  • Immediately upon a child’s removal – protective custody hearing
  • Pre-adjudication
  • Pre-disposition
  • 12-month review hearing
  • Pre-termination of parental rights
  • Other key decision-making points for the child and family

Types of collaborative practices available through the approved centers*:

FGC (Family group conferencing): This research -based child and family-centered approach may be used at any stage of the child welfare process, including as a voluntary referral. FGC Coordinators proficient in working with complex family dynamics in children and youth matters individually meet with, prepare, and engage family, extended family, and a network of others to create a meaningful and accountable family plan or a youth/young adult plan. Private family time is an essential component of the decision-making process. Family group conferencing statistics provide a picture of the use of this process in the state.

PHC (Pre-hearing conference facilitation – initial removal):  Scheduled by the juvenile court immediately preceding the initial protective custody hearing, knowledgeable child welfare facilitators assist in facilitating a brief (30-45 minute) conference to address key preliminary safety and permanency issues with parents, child welfare, attorneys, guardians ad litem. Visit the Court Improvement Project page to learn more about the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative and the history of PHCs in Nebraska.

PHPR (Pre-hearing conference facilitation – twelve month permanency review):  Optimally scheduled 60 days prior to twelve-month permanency review court hearing, this court-ordered off-site facilitated prehearing conference requires the parents, child welfare workers, attorneys, and GALs to confront critical progress, permanency decisions and action steps for the future of the child.

PHTPR (Facilitated prehearing conference of termination of parental rights matters): Experienced, proficient facilitators in the matters of TPR, conflict dynamics, and future welfare of the child prepares and facilitates a conference of parents, attorneys, GALs and other professionals to confront the critical issues and determine next steps including a consideration of relinquishment as well as contested trial, in a termination of parental rights matter.

CWM (Child welfare mediation):  Small, one-to-one private problem solving between family members and providers, or family members themselves.

CWF (Child welfare facilitation): Multi-party facilitation to unravel conflicts and set a better course direction for the child, parents, and caregivers.

Research demonstrates that:

  • Children achieve permanency more quickly in mediation or collaborative intervention than in non-mediated cases
  • Reduction of re-abuse rates for children occurs more often in FGC cases than non-FGC 
  • Increase of using extended family members care for children at risk in FGC cases
  • Reduction in the number of multiple placements – FGC plans create stability for children
  • American Humane Association's National Center on Family Group Decision Making,

Collaborative practices are those in which:

  • Family members are empowered to make decisions
  • Children’s voices are at the center of the process
  • Relationships among family members and friends are strengthened
  • Cases reach permanency more quickly when mediated
  • Specially trained and experienced independent facilitator or mediator convenes and facilitates dialogue

*As funding and other resources are available.